THE House of Representatives yesterday agreed to give up the perceived pork barrel which was taken from the budget of the Autononous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the P8.3 billion ARMM outlay for public works will be given instead to the State Colleges and Universities (SUCs), as well as to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“I told them kung ako ang tatanungin mas magandang ibigay na lang yan sa SUCs at CHED para mas marami ang makapag-aral,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez announced that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign on December 22 the first national budget under his administration following the approval of the P3.35 trillion outlay at yesterday’s bicameral meeting, with members of the Senate and House of Representatives agreeing on a common version of the appropriations bill.
The House of Representatives yesterday ratified the proposed national budget amounting to P3.35 trillion.
The P8.3 billion was part of the P40.6 billion funding proposed for ARMM intended for various infrastructure projects to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned this stressing that it is similar to the outlawed pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund, which gives lawmakers the privilege of identifying their projects for funding.
Lacson also said allowing the DPWH to implement the projects would violate the Organic Act of the ARMM.
But Speaker Alvarez denied it was pork barrel.
“Walang pork dito. We will not allow the pork anymore,” he added.
Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, House Committee on Appropriations chairperson, said the 2017 budget will have the “highest infrastructure spending” at P860 billion, with almost 40 percent going to Mindanao.
For education, Nograles said the new budget would be able to fund the construction of 38,000 new classrooms, hiring of 54,000 new teachers and the enrolment of additional 300,000 scholars of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
For the health sector, a total of P53 billion was appropriated for PhilHealth to cover more indigent patients; and, P4 billion for the medical assistance program. Nograles said the new budget will include funding for the hiring of nurses and doctors to be deployed in rural communities.
The budget will also cover the construction of four mega drug rehabilitation centers for the administration’s war against illegal drugs.
The 2017 budget will continue to have an allocation for the 4.4 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
This time, the families under the program will also receive monthly rice assistance.